Research & Articles by Lt. Col. Peter Winstanley OAM RFD (Retired), JP
Research, Interviews and Articles about the Prisoners Of War of the Japanese who built the Burma to Thailand railway during world war two. Focusing on the doctors and medical staff among the prisoners. Also organised trips to Thailand twice a year.
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Profiles And Stories About Dental Officers On The Burma Thailand Railway
Captain Stuart Thomlinson Simpson - TX 2188

Articles have been produced about six of the 44 Medical Officers who laboured on the Burma Thailand Railway in 1942 to 1945. By way of variation, this article will deal with Dental Officers.

Of the six identified Dental Officers on the Railway, the sole surviving Dental officer is Stuart Simpson. He was born in Ipswich in Queensland 3 December 1912 and educated at South Brisbane State School and later at Church of England Grammar School. He graduated from University of Queensland in 1933 and subsequently opened a Dental Clinic at Royal Hobart Hospital in 1936.

Stuart enlisted into the A.I.F 2/4 Casualty Clearing Station (CCS) on 8 January 1941 with the rank of Captain. This unit was commanded by Lt Col Thomas Hamilton (author of the book Soldier Surgeon in Malaya). The unit was deployed to Malaya in 1941 and was subsequently forced back into Singapore where it was located on capitulation on 15 February 1942.

In May 1942 the unit was moved to Burma as a part of 3,000 POWs on A Force. They were moved on the crowded and unhygienic Japanese troop ship the Celebes Maru. Initially Stuart was at Tavoy where some of the POWs were forced to finish building an aerodrome. Then Stuart was sent to Thanbyzuyat and formed part of a hospital facility. The Medical Officers there were Lt Col Hamilton and Majors Alan Hobbs, Syd Kranz and Ted Fisher along with Captain Tom Brereton. The Senior Australian Officer was Lt Col, later Brigadier Varley. Stuart established a Dental Section there and was ably assisted by a 2/4 CCS Medical Orderly named Bill Fysh . Stuart provided dental treatment to the Japanese (he had no choice), the Australians and a large number of Dutch. Stuart was at Thanbuzuyat when Allied aircraft bombed it and a number of POWs were killed. It was from the same location that 8 POWs attempted to escape and were executed.

Stuart was able to get cocaine for local anaesthesia. In fact, he provided a large quanity to Lt Col Albert Coates and these were used for amputations at 55 Kilo Camp. Stuart remembers the courage of some of his patients, in particular, one Dutch fellow who had extractions when no cocaine was available. Bill Fysch sculptured a dental chair from a termite mound (non active). Other treatments were carried out on tree stumps. Following completion of the Railway at the end of 1943, Stuart along with others, was moved to Camps in Thailand and at the end of the war he was at the Chulalongkorn Hospital in Bangkok.

Post War Stuart resumed in dental practice in Brisbane. He married and had four children- Stuart a Librarian, Anne a Dentist, Andrew a Doctor and Peter an engineer. As at 2004 Stuart Simpson lives in retirement in Clayfield, Queensland. Rowley Richards (Medical Officer on A Force) describes Stuart as “one of nature’s gentlemen”.


By Lt Col Peter Winstanley OAM RFD (Retired) JP. (E-mail )


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